Why Am I Poisoning Myself?

Rodney Warner, JD
Rodney Warner, JD

It’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas, but in a couple weeks the New Year, 2012, will be upon us. With the new year, comes resolutions, kept and broken.

Mine’s a favorite. Lose weight (and, hopefully, be more healthy). According to one online poll, that’s the most common resolution. That beat out “fall in love” by nearly two to one. How you can resolve yourself to a loving relationship is beyond me.

Having gone through a long, protracted, painful, frightening, expensive battle with cancer, and having witnessed my brother’s long, protracted, painful, frightening, expensive battle with cancer that he eventually lost, you might think I’d do anything to avoid a repeat of the process. If you think that, you’d be wrong.

Quite honestly, I’m in lousy physical shape. I don’t exercise in any meaningful way. Earlier this year I started working full time for the first time in many years. Financially and professionally, it’s a huge plus. But I rode my bike far more often back in my part time job days.

You will find people in much worse shape than I. I don’t smoke. I drink very little. Though I’m over weight, I’m not “obese” to the point I’m in any immediate danger of health problems (though my left knee hurts at times and I have arthritis in my right foot, so carrying more weight isn’t helping). I don’t live on fast food and Twinkies. I do manage a regular intake of vegetables.

I bet my situation is shared by millions of Americans. We know we need to eat more healthy food and exercise more. We know what we’re doing and not doing is harming us. But we don’t actually change our ways, or if we do, we fall back into old, bad habits. How I’m living my life is threatening my health long term. One study estimates that 25% to 30% of several common cancers are caused by obesity and lack of exercise. There’s a whole menu of other fatal diseases and conditions related to having too much weight and not enough exercise.

Eating healthier food and exercising more is the perfectly sensible, logical and smart thing to do. These changes don’t need to cost money or necessarily take much time. In all likelihood, if I can stick to this course, I’ll be healthier, live longer and feel better about myself.

So why don’t I just do it?

When I was in my teenage years, one of the things that really bugged me about my parents was their inability to change. Every day, in every way, seemed to be the same. I’m starting to wonder if reluctance to change is genetic. Another reason, ironically, is my cancer experience. Yes, I don’t want cancer again, but I’ve seen many lives cut short, and denying short term pleasures for long term gain is a problem. I really like chocolate milk, buffalo wings and ice cream (though not all together). I don’t like biking so much that I’ll do it year round. Long walks are literally a pain (in my right foot). When my brother was my age, he was three months away from dying. Who’s to say I won’t meet up with that UPS truck with my name on it next week? If my life can be cut short at any moment, why not just enjoy the things I like?

Aren’t cancer survivors supposed to ‘live for the day’, enjoy life every moment we can? I don’t see a regular diet of kale and the absence of beloved chocolate as ‘carpe diem’.

If someone could guarantee me I’d be 30 pounds lighter for the rest of my life, and I could eat whatever I wanted, and exercise as much or as little as I wanted and live a long and healthy life but in return I’d have to go through all the utter awfulness of the cancer treatment I had over five years, packed into six months, I’d do it in a minute. The experience taught me that when my back’s against the wall and I literally have a sword hanging over my head, there’s a lot I can tolerate. When necessary, I can suffer through a mountain of crap. I can beat cancer, but I can’t get my act together to lose weight and exercise more.

When it comes to day in, day out, little decisions that affect my life long term, I, frankly, suck. My resolution is to suck less, hopefully, a lot less. I’ve changed in the past. I’ve moved a couple times. I’ve gone through college and gotten a graduate degree. I’ve gone through career changes, gotten married and have a daughter.

I’m a creature of habit. All I have to do is start good habits. I can change and change for the better. It’s something I can do. All I have to do, is do it

One thought on “Why Am I Poisoning Myself?

  1. Wow, your article described me to a T. I’m a cancer survivor (so far, but I’m not yet 5 years out from my diagnosis), and you’d think I’d be giddy with my current cancer-free status, but rather, I’m paralyzed with fear of recurrence. I can’t seem to get my life together. Cancer caused my life to come to a screeching halt, and now I simply cannot force myself to move forward. Like you, I don’t smoke or drink, but I have also put on weight. You would think I’d be highly motivated to live life to the fullest, but cannot seem to force myself to get it together. I commiserate.

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